Yes, Santa Claus lives

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

My children say I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but my response is that if talkers in public places didn’t want to be overheard, they’d lower the volume of their conversation.

From a restaurant booth in another galaxy:

Two women eased themselves into the booth behind ours in one of the nicer eateries in Peachtree City. They examined the menu briefly. Rearranged themselves for a moment. Gave their server their order.

“Now, you were saying…,’ one began. “No Santa Claus for a 7- and a 4-year-old? What’s that about?”

“Their parents. Both parents are deeply committed Christians and believe that Santa Claus obscures the real ‘reason for the season.’ I’d take up arms myself, if I really believed Santa or anything else could threaten the Bible story of Jesus birth.”

“What is their rationale?”

“That Santa Claus is mythology – put bluntly, a lie – and focuses on commercialism, shopping, and Christmas-themed parties overshadowing the real meaning of Christmas.”

“What are you going to do about it? You can’t just do nothing and hope the kids grow up with some sense of fantasy. Do they ask their friends about Santa? Surely on television, they’ve seen…”

“They don’t have television, so there’s nothing there to blame. And, listen, don’t think Santa is demonized. When the children ask – if they ask – they are told that Santa is make-believe, and is to blame for making kids want the latest computer game or car video. Do you remember what Santa Claus meant to you? You seem to have turned out all right.”

“Thanks, I think. You know, I don’t remember ‘believing’ or ‘not believing,’ but I did get a kick out of being ‘in the know,’ responsible for maintaining the magic of Santa Claus for my little brother. That’s part of the mystique. And the fact is that when other kids tried to spoil our fun by announcing that there was no such thing as flying reindeer and landing on rooftops. I, as the designated keeper of the fable, had authority to lay down the law.”

“How? What did you tell them?”

“That, contrary to their misinformation, Santa is real and more needed in our hearts and homes than ever. I tell them about St. Nicholas helping the poor man with three daughters who had no dowries. They would never marry and be able to care for him when he grew old. The idea of a secret gift giver took hold in the whole village, then the valley and the world.

“I tell them we don’t really understand all the details of transportation and arid zones, not to mention the scale of the project. What we do know, however, is that St. Nicholas/Santa acted in love. God sent love to earth through the baby Jesus, and that’s real. Our response is to do the same, love others, help feed the hungry, and find just the right-colored dump truck for our grandson.”

“Wow. You’ve thought about this a lot, haven’t you?”

“Yes, I have. I can explain most of the details too, when they come asking. But the point is that Santa represents the very core of Christian beliefs – that we should love God and everyone here on earth, because God loved us first. And when you love people, you give them gifts, with no expectation of getting something back. That’s the next step in a small child’s comprehension of grace – love unmitigated, without counting the cost, without being asked or deserved.”

“So what are you going to do about your grandbabies?”

“Good question. I’m not sure. We won’t be with them this Christmas – my husband won’t drive when bad weather threatens. And I don’t want to meddle. But I decided that I had to let their parents know how much my heart aches that they don’t get to enjoy the Santa story. So I called when I knew their dad would be home and the boys in bed, and just laid it all out.”

“Wow. Gutsy.”

“Well, it was a civil conversation. I know they believe they are doing right by their children, and the boys are smart enough to sort out truth from fantasy sometime in the future. Their mother didn’t have any trouble with the Santa ‘myth,’ nor did her sisters. They all had more than enough love in their lives.”

“What did your son-in-law say?”

“He said, ‘The main thing is that I don’t ever want to look my child in the eye and tell him an out-and-out lie. I want him to know he can trust me in all things.’”

“Can’t argue about that.”

“Of course I can. I said, If they ask you straight out is there a Santa Claus, the answer is Yes. Santa Claus lives when love is shared. God is love and sends whatever it takes to get that message out. Some people believe in angels, some in little pink pigs, some in storks, some in Santa. But love lives – unseen, yet powerful – the gift of a loving Father in heaven.”

The restaurant became noisy as the lunch hour began, and I could eavesdrop no more. So I’ll never learn the outcome of the debate.

But I know it will be that love lives.

And so does Santa.